Washington Lawyer - August/September 2018 - 6
FROM OUR PRESIDENT
The Color of Unity:
Forming a More
lawyers to lead
equality not for
a chosen few,
but for all."
s a result of my tenure as the founding managing partner of Finnegan's Shanghai office, my
daughters spent their formative years in China, growing up in an international melting pot of
expatriates from around the globe alongside an array of local and transplant Chinese. Their
experience was far different from the one I became accustomed to growing up as an immigrant
Leaving my motherland in Korea 35 years ago, I found my new homeland in America shaded in new
and strange colors: red, white, and, blue; black and white; and yellow, which for the first time in my life
became a color associated with my identity. What had unconsciously become normalized for me over
time bubbled up to my consciousness years later during my residence in China.
One day, while speaking with my then four-year-old daughter Nora, I realized that she had no concept of
race or how to describe people using labels. Curious to get a glimpse into her world, I asked: "What color
are you?" Looking perplexed, she responded without hesitation: "Why, I am skin colored." It hit me like
In her eyes, people were people, no matter the color. To her, black, brown, yellow, and white were
purely chromatic terms, not shades of human skin. The latter association would not occur until after
she moved back to America. Here, skin color seems to draw an invisible yet palpable line in many ways:
wealth, neighborhoods, schools, jobs, and access to justice.
Unfortunately, as we witnessed in disbelief the tragedy of the Charlottesville, Virginia, riots just a year ago,
it seems that color still matters. That such fervent white supremacist sentiments could exist in D.C.'s
backyard triggers deep concern, and should rally lawyers to speak up for diversity and unity.
The eagle's beak in the Great Seal of the United States holds a scroll inscribed with these sacred words:
E pluribus unum. Out of many, one. Just as the original Thirteen Colonies united and emerged as a single
nation, so must we rise as one community in times of growing division and uncertainty. As advocates,
lawyers can model how to disagree without being disagreeable. As counselors, lawyers can exemplify
how to engage in discourse without being hateful.
As an immigrant, as an American, and as a lawyer, I am reminded that the highest law of this nation was
created "in Order to form a more perfect Union [and to] establish Justice." That "more perfect Union" may
not be "perfect" for any one person, but "more perfect" for every person. These challenging times present
opportunities for lawyers to lead and promote justice and equality not for a chosen few, but for all.
Diversity has long been a hallmark of our nation infused with different perspectives, thoughts, and beliefs.
Those differences do not diminish the strength of our community, but rather enhance the richness of our
In the current climate of increasing division, I am reminded of my daughter's childlike response and
wonder: What is the color of unity? What is the true color of our nation representative of "We the People"?
I imagine the color of unity in all shades of beautiful - a kaleidoscope of colors reflecting an array of
races, religions, and cultures.
Nora is nine years old now, and I haven't asked her recently what color she is. If I do, I hope her answer
would be exactly the same.
Photo: Patrice Gilbert Photography